This potato dish makes an appearance on our table a few times a year—usually for a special occasion. We’ve enjoyed them with our Easter ham, or our Thanksgiving turkey, or our Christmas roast tenderloin, and on the occasional birthday—they are made by special request. It’s kind of a contradiction that given the importance of the occasions, and the pleasure with which it is met, this dish is very simple to make, rustic in appearance and totally comforting in taste.
The key to the consistency of this dish is to thinly slice the potatoes. I use a mandoline (a kitchen tool I would really miss now that I use one a lot), which makes really quick work of this. It takes a little while to layer the potatoes nicely, but I recommend doing it—it looks and tastes better when it’s symmetrical—I don’t know why, it just does.
The classic rendition of this dish is made with Gruyere cheese and is also seasoned with nutmeg (called Gratin Dauphinois) and we love it that way too. But the white cheddar appeals more to our kids’ taste, and is easier on the budget.
White Cheddar Potato Gratin
Serves 8 to 10
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 ½ hours
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 pounds Yukon gold or other waxy potatoes
4 cups half-and-half
4 cups grated White Cheddar cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 rectangular or oval baking dish. Pour the half-and-half into a medium sized saucepan and add the minced garlic, then heat on low while you prepare the potatoes.
Peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/16 inch slices using a mandoline or a knife (if you want to drive yourself crazy). (You could probably use a food processor slicer blade too—but I haven’t tried this myself.)
Layer the potatoes, just slightly overlapping in the bottom of the buttered dish. Sprinkle with a little of the salt, pepper, and about ½ cup of the cheese. Then spoon a ½ cup of the warm half-and-half and garlic mixture over. Repeat these layers until you’ve used all of your potatoes or the reached the top of the dish, whichever comes first.
Bake for an hour or until the top of the gratin is golden and bubbly and the potatoes pierce easily with a fork.